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Teacher rediscovers Hinduism through Catholic sage

Joint celebrations give 'deeper understanding of religion and culture'

Dipankar Basu interprets Hindu Scriptures using the Christian faith during Saraswati Puja Dipankar Basu interprets Hindu Scriptures using the Christian faith during Saraswati Puja
  • Julian Das, Kolkata
  • India
  • February 9, 2011
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A Hindu teacher in Kolkata yesterday celebrated the festival of the Hindu goddess of wisdom according to the interpretation of a Catholic savant.

Dipankar Basu, who teaches at Jesuit-run St Xavier’s Collegiate School, celebrated the festival of Saraswati using a Hindu “mantra” along with songs composed by Brahmabandhab Upadhyaya (1861-1907), a Hindu convert to Catholicism,.

This year, the West Bengal state is celebrating the 150th birth anniversary of Upadhyaya, who strove to integrate Christianity and Hinduism.

Bihar, Orissa and West Bengal states all celebrated the Saraswati Puja (festival) yesterday.

Some 25 Christians and 25 Hindus took part in the celebration at Basu’s residence.

Jesuit Father Patrick Vincent, who brought some 20 Jesuit seminarians to the event, said it would help them gain a deeper understanding of Hinduism and appreciate its rich tradition.

Swami Narasimhananda, a Hindu spiritual leader who attended the worship, hailed Christians and Hindus worshipping God together.

“It is only by coming together that we will be able to understand, and appreciate one another, and build a better community,” he told ucanews.com. The Hindu monk said he appreciated the Christian interpretation of the Hindu sacred texts.

He also pointed out that the Hindu philosophy included Christianity and Islam as part of their heritage.

Basu, who explained the significance and Christian interpretation of the Hindu sacred utterances, said celebrating the Saraswati festival conformed to Church teachings.

He said Upadhyaya celebrating the festival in 1904, had invited his students to do the same.

Upadhyaya also published a magazine, Sophia, that highlighted his fondness for the “God of wisdom,” Basu said.

He pointed out that an Italian Jesuit artist Brother Antonio Moscheni had in 1902 painted a Saraswati picture at St. Aloysius’ College, Mangalore, southern India, using the Roman art form.

Upadhyaya and Brother Moscheni were “prophets ahead of their time” who tried to give Christian understanding to Saraswati, Basu asserted.

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Jesuit leaders pray at Hindu shrine


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